Take off, eh

Just in case there was any remaining doubt in your mind- which there shouldn’t be if you have read any of my posts (like this one Or this. Or this.)- I am very proud to be a Canadian.  I might get more than a little testy about our elected leaders- and their behaviours and systematic dissolution of some of the very policies and programs that have made us stand out, internationally, as an awesome place- one with welcoming arms and a social conscience to go with its gorgeous landscapes and world class cities, but I’d really rather live here than anywhere else in this wide world.  (At least permanently.  An extended holiday somewhere without winter wouldn’t be all that bad…)

I read this article without even a bit of surprise and with a heart full of pride.  I love it when we are recognized for our overall awesomeness.  For the most part, we deserve it.

Which is why I was distressed to have read this article yesterday which is, IMHO, bang on about our very real and very dire situation here in Canada’s biggest (and best) city.  We are in a state of crisis, evidenced yet again yesterday when the chair, Frances Nunziata (an ally of that buffoon I’ve spoken of at length), of city council was forced to shut down the session because of the un-parliamentary behaviour of said mayor-in-name-only and another of his cronies.

What’s a citizen to do?  Really.  I’m asking.  For reals.  Looking for a response that makes sense to me.  There is a crisis of strong, ethical leadership at all levels of government right now (although, as the article notes, Kathleen Wynne is doing her absolute damnedest to lead her chaotic party with something like a responsible example- it’s a majorly uphill battle, though) and that got me thinking about a number of things- none of them particularly comfortable.

At dinner with close friends a couple of weeks ago, the talk turned to politics (not something that is unusual).  One amongst our number- a high school principal in one of the RC boards in the GTA- will be throwing his hat into the ring of provincial politics sometime in the near future.  He took a run at it about a decade ago but decided that it was a bad idea- given the dysfunction of the political environment.  But things have now reached a state where he is feeling like not getting involved is a form of negligence or collusion.

As we spoke, and as I ranted about the municipal situation (as I’m inclined to do), he suggested that I should run for city council.  My initial reaction?  Yeah, right.  First of all, I do not have the personal wealth to get involved in politics (one of the many flaws in the system), and the reality of the situation here in TO means that I would be unlikely to garner any level of financial backing, since I’m not convinced that my view of things is in any way supported by others in this great town.  At least not those with the money to spend to back an untested candidate.

Plus, I would certainly be dismissed as an ‘elite’- given my educational and locational background (having always lived in affluent, ‘downtown’ neighbourhoods), so that would eradicate any possibility of support from ‘the Nation’ and others who might be disinclined to vote for a non-career politician.

I have no interest in having my life exposed to the constant scrutiny of the media- and to those in opposition of my views that might seek to ‘expose’ something unseemly.  Not because I have anything to hide- no skeletons in my closet that I’m aware of- but because the thought of becoming part of a system that is run that way is anathema to everything I believe in.  The behaviour of ridiculous groups like the ‘birthers’ in the US, or those who vilified Michael Ignatieff and Stéphane Dion- when they ran for federal leadership- solely because of academic background and perceived elitism… I just don’t get- and can’t, in any way, suborn that kind of thing.

So.  I dismissed the suggestion out of hand.

After reading the articles yesterday, and with my Canadian pride all lit up like the CN Tower at the recognition that we are pretty cool folks, now I’m feeling like making excuses for not participating on some level is far too close to complicity in the perpetuation of the complete lack of leadership that we are dealing with in my city.  And my country.

I’m not sure what to do with this feeling, or where it might lead me, but I’m thinking that the New Year is going to HAVE to see some action on my part.  Enough just writing and bitching about it.  My CV- widely dispersed in my ongoing search for a more meaningful line of work- claims ‘excellence in leadership’ as one of the attributes I could bring to a company or organization smart enough to hire me.  I’m thinking that it’s time I figured out how to put those skills into practice to effect some change.  How that will be done will require a whole lot of reflection and discussion with my loved ones.  I’m not sure I can sit idly by as my beloved city/province/country loses all those things that make us stand out- and stand tall- as Canadians.

That said, I’m not about to commit myself to a run for council.  I don’t think I’d last a day.  I am a pretty patient person (as classrooms of hundreds of undergrads can attest), but at the first sign of behaviours like those seen in the council session yesterday?  How do you fight idiocy?  I have no clue- and standing, daily, against that level of discourtesy, boorishness, ignorance and completely unjustified arrogance would render me completely ineffective in a matter of weeks.  I can’t fight on their level.  I won’t fight on their level.  But I am at a loss as to how to even begin to raise the standards.

The people seem to like their idiots-as-leaders/media personalities (did you see the latest Fox ‘News’ debacle about the definite ‘whiteness’ of Santa Freakin Claus?  And Jesus?  You can’t see me, but believe me, I’m shaking my head in exasperation).  I’m not an idiot, and I have no intention of playing one on tv.

I hate politics.  Not a big fan of politicians either.  They are single-mindedly focused on their own agendas- or those of the lobbies that support them.  The few ideologues who are brave enough to climb into the mire for the betterment of others too quickly become engulfed by the surrounding culture of self-serving impetus.  In the aftermath of the loss of the great statesman (NOT politician.  NEVER a politician), Nelson Mandela, it’s impossible not to make a comparison with those putative leaders that we can claim, these days.  How do we remove the ‘dirty word’ aspect of politics and politicians in favour of a more statesperson-like definition?

And then there are those ‘mayors’ who never even finished university or had a career other than ‘politician’ and ‘ part time football coach’… Those who cast unfounded and libellous aspersions upon the names and characters of those journalists who are called to hold him- and those who likewise claim to represent the best interests of the city- to account…

Food for thought.

PS- I have also decided that I am going to begin interspersing my regular conversation with all the stereotypical ‘Canadianisms’ that float around outside our borders.  Anything to keep up our image of ‘quaintness’ in the face of accusations of inbred idiocy, which, given the fact that so many people are still saying they would re-elect a certain someone, aren’t completely unfounded.   So… ‘take off, you hosers.  I’m off to pick up a two-four of Labatt’s Blue and then head oot and aboot in the snow of the Great White North. Eh.’  

PPS- I’m not, really.  Labatt’s Blue is TERRIBLE beer.  And I never been either oot or aboot- to my knowledge anyway.

The hand, writing on the wall

The Hebrew Scriptures have some pretty cool stories that contain some really cool characters and memorable lines.  I’ve been studying the texts of the OT and NT and the Apocrypha, and Pseudipigrapha, and the literatures of neighbouring countries (Egypt, the Ancient Near East, Greece, Rome, and etc.) for so very long now, it’s tricky trying to single out what (and who) makes my absolute top of the pops of ancient literature.

I have resolved my love-hate relationship with the particular text(s) that served as the focus of my doctoral thesis- and I’m back to hanging out and having fun with my gnostics, in all their ‘heretical’ glory.  I’ve neglected the Egyptians and Mesopotamians a bit lately- after teaching about them for a few years running and visiting with them at the ROM on a weekly basis we all needed some time apart.

The NT and I remain estranged- there are still some residual hard feelings left over from my Master’s thesis, and, to be honest, I’m not sure that Saul of Tarsus and I will ever really see eye to eye on things.  The Revelation has a lot of fun stuff, but it’s being used all over the place lately (the Headless Horseman of the Apocalypse- on Sleepy Hollow, for e.g), so I’m feeling the over-exposure and forced interpretations more than a little bit right now.

My last new, not re-blogged, post- about our current selfie society- generated some great dialogue in the comments section, and led me to pull out the ol’ Old Testament and have a look back at the Book of Daniel (thanks, Susan!).

Now Daniel and I have always been buds.  He’s a guy you can really cheer for- and the book about him marks the real, canonical, beginnings of apocalyptic literature in the biblical worldview (I’d rather not get into an argument about whether or not the book belongs with the prophetic books or the writings.  Some day, perhaps, I’ll talk a bit about biblical prophecy being not so much- or at all- prophetic but very much about the social commentary of the time in which it was written- and therefore a type of early apocalypticism– but right now I’m grooving with Daniel.  Who belongs with the writings as a proto-apocalyptic).

Next to my gnostics, I love the apocalyptic peeps best.  Sometimes it’s like choosing a favourite from among two cherished children, so why choose?  They tend to overlap a fair bit anyway- hardly surprising since both arise out of discontent and disconnection with the society when the texts were written.

When people are pissed with the status quo things often get a little apocalyptic (it’s happening now, as a matter of fact).  Daniel- and the pseudonymous book about him- was a harbinger of a whole lot of discontent and attempts at change.  And it gave us one of the most interesting images of the whole bible.  In my humble opinion, anyway.

The narrative tells the story of Daniel, who, as a member of the Judean nobility, is serving some time in the service of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.  He, and three of his pals, refused to succumb to the lures of the food and wine provided by their captors, and maintain the mandates of their heritage and religion, even while in exile.  They catch the eye of the king, who declares them to be superior to his own wise men at court and enlists them to his service.  Daniel soon gains a reputation for the accuracy of his dream interpretations, and, since Nebuchadnezzar (I love that name.  Just typing it makes me happy.  Saying it makes me smile.  I guess I was a Babylonian in a former life.  Or something) frequently needs his dreams analysed, he eventually appoints Daniel as his Chief Wise Guy.

While Nebuchadnezzar had his good qualities (like his name.  I love his name), he did steal the treasures of the Temple of Jerusalem (during the destruction of the city and the beginning of the Exilic Period) and brought them back to Babylon with him.  While Neb deals with his demons (7 years of crazy, living like a wild beast and all that) his son Belshazzar (although the Book of Daniel is the only source that lists Belshazzar as Neb’s kid- other historical sources list him as the son of Nabonidus- but we can let him be Neb’s son- no harm to the story) acts as co-regent, and then king in his own right.

One night Belshazzar and his noble friends throw a big party- and use the sacred vessels plundered from Solomon’s Temple as their pint glasses.  They make toasts to their gods- mainly inanimate deities- using Yahweh’s own sacred vessels.  Those of you who have read the Hebrew Scriptures up to this point in the continuing story have to realize that this is not a good idea.  Yahweh does not (generally) take kindly to his word, his people or his stuff being messed with.

To the horror of the collected party goers, a mysterious disembodied hand appears and starts writing on the wall.  Still reeling from the strange apparition, neither Belshazzar nor his assembled guests can figure out what the writing says.  He calls for Daniel to come and have a look.  Daniel, the superlative and Yahweh-favoured Chief Wise Dude, reads the words as Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin.  At first inspection they seem to be meaningless references to weights and measures, but Daniel interprets them as the verbs that correspond to the nouns: numbered, weighed, divided.

As such, he explains that god has numbered the days of Belshazzar’s kingdom and decided that they are at an end.  The kingdom (and its king) have been weighed and found wanting, so it will be divided between the Medes and the Persians.  Like now.  The interpretation is quickly realized, and that very night Belshazzar was killed and Darius the Mede became king.

Generally the story is used (‘the writing on the wall’, ‘the hand writing on the wall’, ‘Mene Mene’) to indicate imminent doom, originating in misbehaviour or inappropriate governance.  Those who attended the feast- and shared culpability for the bad politics and decisions- were able to see the hand as it wrote on the wall, yet were totally unable to understand the message that was being imparted.  The interpretation had to come from someone who wasn’t in any way responsible for the negative behaviours- or the misuse of the vessels and the sacrosanct ideology behind them.  Only Daniel was able to give warning and explain the impending collapse of the Babylonian kingdom by reading the writing on the wall.

Increasingly, these days and with the societies and systems of government that we have created and institutionalized, fewer and fewer people are able to see the imminence of danger as we continue headlong down a path that is becoming less and less equitable and more and more dictated by those who hold power.  That those in power were, ostensibly, chosen by the people (rather than through hereditary ascension, as in the Babylonian example), makes the systemic problems all the more glaring and frustrating.

We are not doing enough to hold our leaders to account (don’t even talk to me about the idiots of FN- who will STILL vote for that guy come next October.  As much as I despise name-calling, those who remain convinced that THAT guy is the best candidate for mayor, ARE idiots.  There is no other adequate descriptive word.  And I know LOTS of words) while they choose to ignore the disembodied hand and its message entirely.  Claims about improvements to the economy (while myriad citizens remain in situations of un/underemployment and the middle class continues shrinking while the divide between the haves and the have nots become more pronounced), to the housing market (as home ownership is increasingly an inaccessible pipe dream in most major Canadian cities), and the short-sighted politics that reflect immediate self-interest rather than long-term nationwide benefits… These things, as serious as they are, only scratch the surface of the current crises we are facing.

As I say over and over and over again, our myths- and their interpretations- have a whole lot of wisdom to offer, if we bother to take the time and pay attention to what those who came before us had to say.  Especially since we keep on making the same sorts of mistakes, driven by greed and one-upmanship and the ever-increasing need to hear ourselves speak (or yell) over the voices that might be offering an alternative (and better, more equitable) perspective.

In February 1964, as a response to the assassination of JFK a few months previously, a young lad named Paul Simon wrote a song.  The Sound(s) of Silence (the original title was plural) shares an enduring sense of futility and awareness of the dangers of silence- the problems that arise when people fail to effectively listen to and speak out about the cancers growing around us.

As we bow to our own neon gods, perhaps we need to take time to listen to this song- about to celebrate its 50th (!) birthday- a little more closely.  It might help us to see the hand and decipher the message it is continually writing on the walls that surround us.

And the sign flashed out its warning, in the words that it was forming

And the sign said, ‘the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls’

And whispered in the sounds of silence.

Mene Mene, my friends.  Take heed.  That hand is getting pretty emphatic with its messages.

Character, referenced

I’ve been thinking about that word a lot lately.  Partly because I’m participating in NaNoWriMo (32000+ words on the go), so character development is something on which I’m pretty keenly focused as I attempt to unfold the story from the recesses of my imagination.

Creating someone believable out of nothing is always an interesting endeavour.  I like to think that I have always been a writer.  Even as a child my imagination allowed for the creation of friends and scenarios- for my own amusement and that of others (ask my sibs sometime about the entity known as ‘Baby YumYum’- as space alien who accompanied us on family vacations).  They all had back stories and hometowns, histories and very specific likes and dislikes.  I remember it being fairly simple to come up with one character or another, pretty much at the drop of a hat.

As I’ve been an avid devourer of books since I learned how to read, the characters of favourite novels (and periods of history) tend to stay with me, and they sometimes take on a life of their own.  Strong characters become friends- to be cheered on as they reach goals or mourned as they pass on, and remembered as though they were real in moments of passing fancy.  Any number of times I’ve had to catch myself thinking about someone- missing them or thinking about how much they might enjoy a particular event- only to realize that I’m in fact recalling a character rather than a ‘real’ person.

Strong fictional character can become fully realized to those who love them.  When I first read Anne Rice- way back in the Dark Ages before Lestat started looking like Tom Cruise (shudder.  BOWIE- okay, maybe Sting- should have been Lestat…)– I often caught myself having conversations with her characters- particularly Marius- that vampiric remnant from the height of the Roman Empire- since his worldview and personality were companionably comparable to my own.

Somewhere along the line of my heavily invested reading, I sort of started believing that the characters I loved existed out there somewhere- waiting, perhaps, to be met in unlikely circumstances.  I mentioned, when talking about the wonderful exhibit at the AGO celebrating the amazement that David Bowie has brought into our collective existence, that I once wrote a stream-of-consciousness piece in which the narrator carried on an ongoing dialogue with the spirit of Ziggy Stardust.

I talk to characters like that all the time.

Flip side of this?  If the GREAT characters can get out there into the world, then so can the ones who aren’t so nice.  As a consequence of this little peculiarity of belief, I can’t not finish a book- even if it’s terrible (IMHO)- because leaving it unfinished maximizes the possibility that the horrible characters WILL make it into our world (this belief unfortunately meant I had to read the first Twilight novel in its entirety.  That’s a couple hours of my life I’ll never get back.  I didn’t speak to the person who gave it to me for at least a couple of days after, as revenge).

I mentioned this little eccentricity to a book loving, like-minded friend of mine.  Her response was to stand in line at the Ottawa Public Library for hours in order to get me a autographed copy of Timothy Findley’s Headhunter.  Here, from the talented pen of one of Canada’s literary treasures, was a story that included my own pathology.  The characters of Heart of Darkness escaped into a dystopian version of Toronto.

In addition to being a wonderful read that I revisit over and over (and which holds pride of place on my bookshelf), it was proof that I’m not (completely) crazy.

This love of character and story is one of the many reasons why I so love– and emphasize the importance of- myth.  Characters that were envisioned millennia (or centuries, or decades, or weeks) ago STILL capture our imaginations and are part of our common communications.

We constantly recall and revisit and remake these figures from our past stories- guys like Gilgamesh, or the patriarchs and other happening dudes of the OT (Melchizedek is my personal fave exemplar of the Super-Priest- and there’s a movie about Noah and his Ark coming out in the Spring), Jesus, the Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed… our mythologies are filled with amazing characters who continue to resonate with us- through the stories about their words, actions or the things they left behind them.

But that may also be why I’m struggling a bit (okay, a lot) getting these characters of mine fleshed out and onto the page.  I have a longlonglong history of hero worship to reconcile as I attempt to give life to my own fictional people.

(Another ‘waiting in line for an autograph’ story?  Since I was just talking about her… Anne Rice at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa after Servant of the Bones was released.  By the time I got to her- and had my PICTURE taken with her- I was so overwhelmed with the memories of the characters she had given me I was pretty much a blithering idiot.  Did manage to stammer something about missing Ramses and looking forward to the continuation of the story of The Mummy, to which I’m sure she said something courteous and respectful- she’s a truly lovely person- before I stumbled away)

And add to that the fact that recent events here at home (you might have heard something about what’s going on by now.  Assuming you don’t live on Mars) have had me thinking more about the development of moral character than fictional character development.

Oops.

According to the Wikipedia:

“Moral character or character is an evaluation of a particular individual’s stable moral qualities. The concept of character can imply a variety of attributes including the existence or lack of virtues such as empathy, courage, fortitude, honesty, and loyalty, or of good behaviors or habits. Moral character primarily refers to the assemblage of qualities that distinguish one individual from another — although on a cultural level, the set of moral behaviors to which a social group adheres can be said to unite and define it culturally as distinct from others.”

The word comes from Greek, with an original meaning pertaining to a mark of some kind which is impressed on a coin.  There is a sense of indelibility about the word.  True character cannot be erased or washed away.

Character, as a quality, is at the heart of discussions of ethics and morality- things that form the core of most of the religions and philosophical systems we find across the world.  Morality is also defined by our cultures and the mores of our secular societies.

Caricature comes from a Latin word that means ‘to load’.  A picture that is a caricature is ‘loaded’- with either simplified or exaggerated characteristics.  They are rarely complimentary, and often used in political editorial commentary.

We’ve seen a lot of that up here lately.

“Maybe I’m too nice.”  He actually said that in an interview during his press jag today.  He was trying to answer a question about why he was hanging about with known criminals and writing them letters of reference.

Although some citizens of his Nation remain steadfast- distinct as it is from the rest of the us- the society seems to have crumbled somewhat over the past few days.

The television show has been cancelled- apparently ‘production costs’ are too high for the small television station to handle.  The locks at city hall have been changed.  And now federal Conservative leaders are telling him he should step aside.

Still, he continues to ignore the tide of opinion while remaining a caricature and refusing to demonstrate an iota of the moral character to which he lays claim.  Like Kurtz, in Findley’s novel as in Joseph Conrad’s original novella and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, his delusions of grandeur have damaged the city and those around him.  So it’s past time for us to close the book and walk away.  Stop feeding his narcissism and his inability to look beyond his own ego as he continues to believe his own press releases (or those that his brother creates for him).

Whether he is a created political character or a sad caricature of what can happen when a life of privilege is not tempered with education, experience or any attempt at critical analysis, I’m writing him off, once and for all.

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be Heroes, just for one day

And you, you can be mean
And I, I’ll drink all the time
‘Cause we’re lovers, and that is a fact
Yes we’re lovers, and that is that

Though nothing, will keep us together
We could steal time,
just for one day
We can be Heroes, for ever and ever
What d’you say?

I, I wish you could swim
Like the dolphins, like dolphins can swim
Though nothing,
nothing will keep us together
We can beat them, for ever and ever
Oh we can be Heroes,
just for one day

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be Heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day

I, I can remember (I remember)
Standing, by the wall (by the wall)
And the guns shot above our heads
(over our heads)
And we kissed,
as though nothing could fall
(nothing could fall)
And the shame was on the other side
Oh we can beat them, for ever and ever
Then we could be Heroes,
just for one day

We can be Heroes
We can be Heroes
We can be Heroes
Just for one day
We can be Heroes

We’re nothing, and nothing will help us
Maybe we’re lying,
then you better not stay
But we could be safer,
just for one day

Bowie placed the title of the song in quotation marks since the subjects of the song are only ironically “heroes”.  In their own minds and only for that limited time period.

Time’s up, Rob.

‘Well-learned Politesse’ Where Art Thou?

As I listened to some Rolling Stones the other day (as follow up to the clip I included in my post) that ^^^ line, from Sympathy for the Devil, leapt out at me as it often does.  It is such a well-turned phrase.  ‘Well-learned politesse.’  The very words scream decorumIn an understated way, of course.  And so applicable to us here in Canada.  Where we are internationally stereotyped as being so very polite that we will apologize those who run over us with their cars.  We must have somehow been in the way.

Politesse is often used derogatorily- as if the courtesy displayed is somehow over the top, or insincere.  I get that interpretation- hyper-politeness is something that pops up every now and again.  I admit to using it myself.  If someone is being rude, I have a tendency to pull out all the stops as far as excessive manners- and mannerisms- go.  Politesse can be a weapon.  Although it’s not one that seems to be at the top of the list these days.

Relatively recently, and for the first time, I watched a couple of episodes of Due South– that amusing show about an RCMP Constable (in full red serge get-up and complete with deaf, but sign language understanding, wolf-dog- named Diefenbaker.  Love that) who finds himself as the liaison with the Chicago Police Department.  The show, starring the talented Paul Gross, plays up the stereotypical differences between us and our neighbours south of the border.  Constable Fraser is constantly looked at askance for his polite responses and intrinsic courtesy.  The series is based on one of the go-to beliefs about us Canadians- that we are unfailingly polite in all circumstances.

Not so much anymore, it would seem.  We are losing it.  Or perhaps we’ve already lost it, and those few people who retain manners and common courtesy are the exceptions that prove the rule.

I don’t get it.  How hard is it to extend a little respect to each another?

Manners, like most mores, are culturally and temporally relative.  Things like personal space, (in)appropriate touching, spitting (ugh), horn honking, gesturing… all these actions and sensibilities are shaped and affected by environment.  Toronto is a very multicultural town.  It’s one of the things I love about it.  I’ve always thought that we do a pretty good collective job about respecting the intricacies of navigating the cultural divides that are part of life in this city.

I’m starting to wonder.  And I’m not sure if the lapses in courtesy can rightfully be blamed on these cultural differences anyway.

I have been hearing an inordinate, and distressing, number of low-grade racist comments lately.  Some of them are feedback from the idiocy happening in Quebec, but some seem to be rooted in the realities of the economy and the tensions that arise between ‘natives’ and immigrants when the job situation is miserable.  No excuse, and I make every attempt to shut it down when I have the misfortune of hearing ridiculous comments, but I do have to say that I am noticing it more and more.

Distressing as that is, I think there is a real and growing issue that has nothing to do with prejudice but nonetheless is representative of mass-ignorance and a lack of basic respect.  Its symptoms can be seen across our many means of communication- and there certainly seems to be a quiet acceptance of the idea that bellowing obscenities at the top of one’s lungs is now well within the realm of what is deemed okay.  In politics OR polite company.

I’m not a prude.  I can talk some trash with the best of them.  In more than one language, actually.  Sometimes an expletive is just the ONLY way to fully and adequately express the depth of chagrin one feels in a particular situation.  Words are powerful- and the way in which they are used can be extremely illustrative of any number of things.  That’s not to say that some words haven’t been invested with more baggage than deserved- they are just words after all.  Context in use of language, as in history, is everything.

This trend toward a complete lack of manners goes beyond words, of course.  The other morning, on a crowded subway, I was the only person who even bothered to offer my seat to a heavily pregnant lady- who accepted it with such relief and obvious gratitude it made me embarrassed for the rest of my fellow travelers.  That there were people considerably younger than me who sat and stared straight ahead, pretending not to notice as she struggled to find a space to stand comfortably, made me more than a little angry.  What are we teaching kids these days?

And then I started seeing the editorials about the latest Ford crap (yes, I said crap– sometimes not using an expletive carries its own power) and I realized that there is little wonder that we are losing our collective sense of propriety and common courtesy.  Look at who is running the city.  And the brother he rode in on.  Yet these guys are celebrated for their ‘earthiness’, their ‘non-elitism’, their ‘salt-of-the-earth-ness’.

There is a difference between being ‘one of the guys’, a ‘good ol’ boy’ and plain-spoken and sounding like extras on a show like Trailer Park Boys…

That’s why this had to be said.  Just when you thought the guy couldn’t sink any lower in an estimation of dignity and decorum… The free-fall continued.  And dragged his wife- and her lady bits- into his descent.

And yet Sun TV (our Canadian equivalent to that wonder of journalistic integrity, critical thinking and fact checking- FOX News) has just given the brothers Ford a TELEVISION show

Since the move, I now have access to a cable package with a different variety of programming than I had previously.  I can catch up on The Walking Dead (assuming I overcome boredom with the whole zombie thing) and get into shows like American Horror Story (what’s this fixation with the dark side all about.  Never mind.  I know the answer to that) when I have some free time.  I also get Discovery now- a station with shows about science and such that I very much used to enjoy.  Now it seems to be showing a whole load of programming about hillbillies making and selling moonshine.  One of these moonshiners has even scored his own spin-off, it would seem.  Much of this programming requires sub-titles.  Even though they are, ostensibly at least, in English.

Why are we all about the lowest common denominator lately?  Why are the Honey Boo-Boos and the ‘Worst Drivers’ and the Duck Dynasties being given forums in which to display the depths to which we are sinking?

Okay.  I have to admit that I’m currently hopped up on methamphetamine (meth is made with Vicks cough syrup, right?  I haven’t watched any of Breaking Bad so I’m a little out of the make-your-own drugs loop) due to a brutal cold that I can’t seem to shake, so between the meds and the cough drops and the lack of adequate sleep, I might be overreacting

Perhaps it’s because our elected leaders are allowed encouraged to speak as though they barely graduated high school and want nothing more than to party with the boys at the weekend.

This article sums things up pretty well.

The opening segment on Saturday Night Live last was, of course, about the mayor and his ongoing descent into infamy.  Was it funny- with the use of the stereotypical Canadian ‘accent’, peppered with ‘ehs’ and ‘aboots’ and the like (we really don’t speak like that)?  It was.  Bobby Moynihan (I LOVE ‘Drunk Uncle’- he has to be one of my favourite current characters) did a great job as the blow-hard that is acting as our Chief Magistrate.

But.  Along with the exhaustion that came along with awareness that our city has now been featured on EVERY major comedy outlet I can think of, was the reality that Bobby’s impersonation was really faaaaaaar too articulate and courteous to reflect the reality of the man he was sending up.

His Rob Ford- presented as a comedic caricature- was a much more dignified character than the real Rob Ford.  With whom we remain forced to contend on a daily basis.

The first ‘news’ story I saw this morning, when I turned on the tv to get the weather forecast, showed Ford entering the Sun TV studio to film his new television program.

I weep for the future.  Of this city.  And for this society that increasingly encourages and rewards boorishness while deriding politesse and common courtesy.  I’m just OUT of words.  Expletive or not.  In any language.

P.S. Today is a big day for the city of Toronto.  It’s Santa Claus Parade Day- the 109th annual, making it the longest-running children’s parade in the world.  The organizers asked that the mayor NOT show up to to walk (as mayors traditionally do) so that the focus would not be removed from the children.  Kudos to the Santa Claus Parade peeps. 

AND… the Grey Cup Champion Toronto Argonauts are about to meet their arch-rival Hamilton Ticats, just next door at the Dome, for the Eastern Final.  Oskee Wee Wee, my ass.  The Argos organization (Pinball Clemons is among the classiest men I know) ALSO reminded everyone that they have no direct affiliation with the mayor.  Especially necessary since he was wearing an Argos jersey when he made those oh-so-classy comments about his wife the other day.  There does seem to be some sense rearing its head here and there in town.  ARRRRRRRRRGOSSSSSS!   

‘You probably think this (song) is about you…’

So many great words come from Greek origins.

Hubris.  That’s a really good one.

We tend to associate it with pride and arrogance- with the suggestion that neither are remotely warranted.  In ancient Greece acting against the laws regulating hubris could get you brought up on serious charges.  Why?  Because such violations persecuted someone else.  They were more than the act of displaying (illegitimate) overestimations of one’s own competence, accomplishments or capabilities in manner that is completely disconnected from reality.  Hubristic acts messed with the freedoms and honour of others.

In a society in which the concepts of honour and shame were a presiding reality, a person’s honour was tied up in all things- identity, familial connections, business transactions.  Every aspect of life was connected with the maintenance of the honour that was afforded by one’s station in life (however highfalutin or lowly that status may have been).  Likewise, shame (usually associated with the women in the family) was tied into the fabric of societal interaction.  To interfere with this balance was to create societal discord- not something that the authorities were all that enthusiastic about.

Hubris, in ancient Greece, was a crime perpetuated by humans against other humans.  The gods were not accused of hubris, and did not punish those who were guilty of the extremity of arrogance and sense of entitlement.  They left it up to us humans to figure out the penalties for that particular crime ourselves.

Whether or not one believes in any sort of divine justice or theodicy (I don’t, for the record), hubris is a transgression that must be handled by us.  And it must be done immediately in order to prevent further damage.  Although we may not live in a society in which the dynamics of honour and shame are a ruling focus, it’s past time we took steps to restore some honour to the offices of our political leaders who have shamed us all in their unwillingness to accept responsibility for their actions.  Or inaction, as the case may be.  We should no longer have to be ashamed of the actions of another- even if that shame is hardly the point.  There are far more serious things at play here than being the continuing source for late night talk show jokers (as apt and clever as they may be).

I’ve read a number of editorials lately that talk about Toronto and its transformation from a town in which the ‘old, white elite’ looked to maintain the status quo while sitting in their urban enclosures (our affluent downtown neighbourhoods), as they always have done, into a truly amalgamated mega-city that offers all things to all people.  This has been the perception– both at home and on the international stage.  There is tension between the city and the suburbs, for sure.

This guy was duly elected as a reactionary response to some of these things.  Even though it was the WRONG thing to do, I get that there were those who thought his claims and promises were the right thing for the city.  I also get that there is (currently) no apparatus in our system of municipal government that permits the removal- against his will- of someone who was elected to the post.

Therefore, short of higher intervention (from the provincial government- not a deity), it is up to the person in question to truly accept responsibility for his actions and words and step down.

That isn’t looking like it will happen.

He says he’s going to continue doing the job he was elected to do.  He loves his job.  Good for him.  We should all be so lucky to have a job that we love.  I don’t- yet I get up every day and go in and do the best I can to fulfill my responsibilities so the bills get paid.

In his case, what’s not to love?  Rolling into work at noon, leaving meetings to coach a football team (although he doesn’t do that any more- at the request of said team), having a grand old time at public events, travelling to exotic locales (if Chicago and Austin may be deemed as such) as the city’s representative, being able to blow off major city events (Pride for e.g.) to head to the family cottage, having a staff that seems willing to put up with never ending demands that have little (if anything) to do with his actual role as Chief Magistrate, spouting off ad nauseam on a weekly radio show (although that has also stopped), throwing expensive barbeques that allow his ‘Nation’ to feed his narcissistic personality… and all this, while pulling down something like $170K/year.

Narcissist.  There’s another great word, again, inherited from the Greeks.  Its root, the Greek word ναρκη (narke) meaning ‘sleep’ or ‘numbness’, is also the root of the word narcotic (coincidence?  I think not).  Narcissus, the mythological character who is the poster child for this particular pathology, was self-fixated to such an extent that it led his own destruction.

Is any of this sounding familiar?  I’m certainly no psychologist, but that Oracle of All Information (the Wikipedia) defines narcissistic personality disorder as ‘a personality disorder in which one is excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity.’

I’m sick of thinking about these things.  Yet I realize that fatigue of this nature is what allows people in power- especially those who are abusing that power- to remain where they are.  While one might feel as though there is no point in continuing to talk about things like vulgarity, consorting with criminals, criminal behavioursextreme lapses in judgement, bullying of employees, misuse of common funds (just pulling random examples from no particular source)… it is part of our responsibility as vigilant citizens of this world to do so.

He seems completely and pathologically unaware that the right thing to do is to step down and get the help he needs.  Or not.  Whatever personal stuff he is dealing with is absolutely within his province to either address or let fester.  But he does NOT get to force the rest of us to continue in this spiralling fall with him.  By all accounts and actions thus far demonstrated, he is incapable of understanding that this is not about HIM.  It is about what is best for this city he claims to love.  It is about the needs of all of us who call Toronto home.  Regardless of what he wants.

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you might find
You get what you need

And I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing, “We’re gonna vent our frustration
If we don’t we’re gonna blow a 50-amp fuse”

Sing it, Mick.

‘Persuasive danger in everything you say…’

I have a song in my head.  Not the one that features the line I’ve borrowed for the post’s title (although that one pops in and out), but another by that same band has been cycling through my brain pretty consistently for the past week or so.

‘I could never keep a beat
Too busy in my paradise
Put a crocodile in high office
And something out of place inside

When all is said and all is done
My hands that work with a fire and steel

Fashion play your part
To be workers of red
Fashion play your part
To be workers

While all the time you dance around
And things get fucked and we’re to blame
And I couldn’t think political blue

When all is said and all is done
My hands that work with a fire and steel

And motionless we’ll slip away
Images are my thoughts too real’

China Crisis was here this weekend.  My bff won me tickets to go see them.  Which I haven’t done since 1986 or thereabouts (pretty sure it was the year What Price Paradise came out).  But since they once played an historic (from my perspective anyway) show with Simple Minds, and since Simple Minds was just here…

Fletch and went to Hugh’s Room and hung out with them on Sunday to revisit that 1983 classic double bill (even with the gap of a couple of weeks between the bands this time ’round- and the reversal of the order in which they appeared).

Gotta say.  Even had the tickets not been free, it would have been fantastic value for the money.  Gary was as much a comedian as he was the lead singer- with that distinctive voice of his- of a band whose music has stood the test of time quite remarkably.  There was nostalgia in abundance, but a whole lot of laughs as well.

Hugh’s Room is an interesting venue- first time there (although not likely to be the last)- and its dinner theatre vibe contributed to the overall sense of the cabaret from the get go (I admit I expected a willkommen to start off the evening).  The two original members of the band- Eddie Lundon and Gary Daly- seemed very much the same as they did well over 20 years ago (Eddie still looks like Eddie Munster all grown up.  It’s the widow’s peak, I guess).  They were relaxed and personable- and in great musical form.  Eddie’s guitar was pretty damn sublime at times, and Gary’s voice (did I mention its distinctiveness?) had me remembering the lyrics to songs I hadn’t listened to in ages- and, at his suggestion (provided you could carry a tune/had some sense of rhythm), participating in the show.  We are all members of the band, apparently.

(Now that’s a status update I should have registered on the facebook. Cole has joined China Crisis.  Like the sound of that.  Not sure I could handle the touring schedule, but I can certainly sing/clap some accompaniment pretty professionally…)

Difficult Shapes and Passive Rhythms Some People Think it’s Fun to Entertain, remains among my all time favourite album titles- and it was well-represented by lovely versions of African and White and Christian, their last encore for the evening.  Early on Gary asked if they should play Working With Fire and Steel– from the album Working With Fire and Steel- Possible Pop Songs Volume Two– to which the response was, of course, an overwhelming ‘yes please’ (Canadian audience- we remain polite even when over-excited), and so I finally got to hear those distinctive opening notes live and in person, rather than from the inside of my brain.  Hanna Hanna wasn’t on the playlist, but they supplied a strong rendition of Wishful Thinking, so the album was well-represented.

Their third album, Flaunt the Imperfection, is probably my sentimental favourite.  It so clearly evokes a specific time and place- namely the Government Landing on a particular lake in Cottage Country where I would sit, with my Walkman and the cassette, for a space of tranquility and alone time every day of my summer sojourn in the northlands.  I have their first two albums (and, for some reason, also their 4th and 5th) on vinyl, but Flaunt the Imperfection was first purchased on cassette- and is the only one that I replaced with a CD, when the time came to upgrade my music to the technology du jour.  There are songs from the rest of their repertoire that have made it into the iTunes library, but that whole album is there- even if it has been somewhat neglected of late.

I love it in its entirety, but You Did Cut Me, Bigger the Punch I’m Feeling and The World Spins I’m Part of it, combined with the more commercially successful King in a Catholic Style and the beautiful Black Man Ray, are among the songs that I associate most with the summer and moments of quietude in one of most-beloved places in the world.  The album was very well represented Sunday night, to my excessive delight.  It really is incredible how certain lyrics can be both timeless and timely all at once.

From the ‘put a crocodile in high office‘ of Working With Fire and Steel (honestly, every time I see the word crocodile in print somewhere, my internal dialogue speaks it in Gary’s voice) to the words of King in a Catholic Style, which could be describing our mayor right down to his ‘big body blues, their commentaries remain remarkably relevant.  The latter song almost completely describes a recently released video which Ford him ranting about taking out some unknown opponent… But, again, I digress (although the guy is handing out freakin bobble head representations of himself today.  I wish I was joking.).

‘Wake up, wake up
King in a catholic style
With your man
With your man make up
And your big money business smile
Cut ’em up, cut ’em up
Crucial to every child
With a mind
With a mind made up
And your main man confidence smile

Wake up, wake up
Exercise your every right
With your plan
On the up and up
And your prize money struggle in sight
Cut ’em up, cut ’em up
Physical in every way
Tough enough, tough enough
Face up
And blow your big body blues away’

Complimentary to the political commentary present in King in a Catholic Style, Black Man Ray is about faith, and speaks to the issues I have with the blindness that all too frequently comes along with it.  It references the ‘persuasive danger’ (I love that so very much) of the voice of the preacher along with belief and doubt and the whole cliché about, when it comes down to it, some god or other being the only one who ultimately knows.  It’s about the tension between faith and belief and the practical and critical assessment of the words of others.  The oft-requested (by those in power) suspension of disbelief as we try to learn, and the inevitable doubts that we encounter as we search out answers.

In my interpretation of the lyrics, I have always heard that last line- about god knowing- as representative of the prime cop out of faith.  Very reminiscent of the problem I have with Job (the biblical book, not the guy.  Had such a guy existed, I find it VERY difficult to believe that he would have bought the whole ‘Were you there when I created all this stuff?  No?  Then shut it‘ non-response to the questions he was asking).  You’re likely aware of the issue I have with our human propensity toward externalizing all those things we can’t get a handle on- incarnating evil and good as unreachable and untouchable beings when we should, instead, look at the stories about said beings as demonstrations of our own, human, ability to reach both those extremes.

For all its seeming simplicity, to me, that’s what this song is talking about.  How lovely it was to hear it performed live once again.

‘Are we believing
Black man ray
Are we not happy
In our own way
And we the people
Who reason why
Forever change
As time goes by

Yes, yes, I could be wrong
Why, why, should I pretend
God only knows in the end

Are we believing
The heavenly survive
Faith the future
Big life on their side
And we the people
Who can but try
Forever learn
As time goes by

Yes, yes, I could be wrong
Why, why, should I pretend
God only knows in the end

Are we believing
Black man ray
Persuasive danger
In everything you say
And we the people
Who answer you why
Forever doubt
As time goes by’

Their later albums- What Price Paradise and Diary of a Hollow Horse– saw some representation (in particular with the performance of June Bride– never one of my top picks) but it was the really good ol’ stuff that resonated the most with the crowd (unsurprisingly, the average age of the attendees was pretty much comparable to those of us at the Simple Minds show).  One friend, upon hearing that I was off to see the band, ‘jokingly’ reminded me that there has been music made in the past 20 years.  I do know this.  It has seemed like 80s-o-rama around here lately (speaking of Rama, ZZ Top was also in the environs last weekend- at Casino Rama, north of the city), and the flashbacks associated with revisiting these old friends has taken precedent over the newer stuff.

But I gotta say… Watching the band with the crowd- while on stage- and seeing Eddie outside after the show, talking companionably with his fans and posing for pictures- as well as the complete lack of pretension and posturing airs that these older dudes have displayed in the shows I’ve been privileged to see lately (for all that the Simple Minds show was at the 2700-seat Massey Hall, Jim and the lads acted like they were playing the local pub) really emphasizes the striking contrast between the seasoned musicians that I so love and the popster poseurs who seem to dominate the world of music and fill the stadiums these days.

Yes yes.  I’m old.  And ‘music today’ is ‘hardly music’ and all that.  I do try to get out to see as much new music as I can, and there ARE great musicians out there- working hard to make a name and pay the bills.  I guess what I really don’t get is the assertion that a reasonably good voice and a pretty face are enough to warrant legions of screaming fans.

As Gary joked the other night, he and Eddie had no formal musical training (he was talking about receiving the score for one of their songs from their label- seeking verification that the music was accurate- and noted that the black blobs on the page were little more than hieroglyphs to the both of them) but together (with various other band members over the years) they wrote and recorded a whole bunch of songs that, 30+ years later, still had a (slightly aged) crowd singing along and cheering them throughout.

Why?  Because the songs are actually about something.  And the tunes and the words are about themes that are universal (such as the persuasive danger inherent in the smooth voices of politicians and preachers) and therefore enduringly relevant.

Not sure that the same can be said for a whole lot of those ‘music celebrities’ out there who are selling stuff on the iTunes regularly.

Which is why, when Gary suggested a trip to the merch table to purchase a CD of some of the great live performance bootlegs (so that their hotel-staying status could be raised somewhat from their current ‘Days Inn’ level), I was happy to oblige.  I remain most pleased to offer my time- and a portion of my disposable income- to a couple of guys like Gary and Eddie, who, genuinely and without airs, appreciate their fans and don’t take them for granted (they also presented a couple of audience members- who follow their facebook page and were evidently discussing such things- with British iterations of the Remembrance Day poppies.  That’s just downright CLASSY, if you ask me).

I was reminded that, in addition to its implicit presence in religion and politics, there is also persuasive danger in the attraction to the superficial that seems to be the norm these days- as we suspend better judgement and listen to (and watch) those things we are TOLD (by the media, our politicians, business leaders) we should be tuning in to watch.

The younger generation of performers could learn a thing or two from these guys.

And they still know how to put on a great show.  Thanks for coming back to see us, lads.

And now for something completely different…

Since my best intentions were derailed by the idiocy surrounding the engineer of the anti-gravy train yesterday, today I’m all about the shiny and happy and moving forward with something that, while continuing to stray from the ‘mandate’ of this here colemining, at least demonstrates the vital importance of story in my life.

So, although it seems an easy-out as far as posts go, here, for your edification- should you choose to continue to indulge me- is an excerpt from my NaNoWriMo project…

February 20, 2008

Under other circumstances the combination of fire and ice would have to be described as transcendentally beautiful.  The flames licked the sides of the old buildings, and as painful as that was- especially for me, in love with things of age and grace- the water from the fire hoses freezing as it did into modern sculpture almost as quickly as it was expelled into the frigid February morning, had a grace of its own.  Interesting.  Twice in one sentence I use the word ‘grace’, and yet have no illusions that such a thing exists.  Not knowing what I know, for as long as I have known it.  

The glow illuminated the face of the one I love best, and as I stared at him, I realized that I’ve seen that exact expression before, under circumstances that were too much the same, yet completely different.  Time plays such tricks, when you have lived through as much of it as I have.  Nearly two thousand years separated the first memory from the latest.  Fire, no ice, but the same look of despair and resigned acceptance haunting the features of his face, making his great beauty even more profound and seemingly fragile.  Burning, in the name of gods and politics- nothing more or less than ideologies and ideologues- created by humans, for better or much, much worse.  Same tune, different lyric.  History repeating itself to the degree that it was practically foregone as a conclusion.  Clichéd almost.  

That first time, how many years had we passed together, only to separate for a time and be reunited in that great city?  We were never long apart, yet that time marked the greatest estrangement, the most significant, and to be standing with him as the conflagration grew, as chaos reigned- although not to the sound of fiddle music as tradition and myth would have it- I remember being happy beyond expressing that I was with him again, yet unable to help being affected by the tragedy unfolding before us.  He has always had that effect on me- to the point where I often can’t tell where my own feelings end and his begin.  Such is the greatness of his empathy that it is so often projected onto to those closest to him.  Whether he is aware of this power, I have never been sure. 

Then, as now, the depth of sadness threatened to undo me.  In one weaker- for all my human failings, the passage and lessons of time have brought a type of strength, at least- it would have overwhelmed, and the night’s madness would have claimed another victim.  But we stood apart from the crowd, on the rooftop of his apartment, watching from a distance, as we had in Rome.  To move forward, begin yet again- these were my thoughts as I focused on the activity below.   We loved this city, this country, with its polite, tolerant people, beautiful landscapes and varied- if punishing at times- seasons.  But cities come and go.  There are other places that offer the promise of permanence, if not its realization.  New cities suggested opportunity and the chance at new lives.

While his eyes remained dry, as always they betrayed pain that endured millennia, but for the first time I saw true despair and something even bleaker.  For the first time in our enduring friendship I wondered if he would survive this latest blow.  And since a world without him was unthinkable, I felt the first stirrings of my own mortality in years beyond counting. 

Photo- Toronto Star, February 20, 2008

Yes.  The story is set in Toronto.  I LOVE this town.

Lying, crack-smoking, ignorant mayors notwithstanding.

Under Rug Swept

You said it, Linus.

Here I was hoping for a quiet day…

Well, that didn’t happen.  And, I have to admit, I didn’t get all that much accomplished over the course of the day, glued as I was to the various news feeds (especially the Twitter- #inadrunkenstupor and #TOpoli in particular) and laughing literally out loud to some of the bon mots that clever people were posting.  @chrisknightfilm wins with:  ‘Rob Ford and Alex Trebek- 2 Canadians obsessed with just how you phrase your questions’.  IMHO.

The laughter was short-lived and little more than a relief of tension.

Like the rest of the City, I waited with anticipation- although without much hope for a respectable and respectful outcome- for the second press conference of the day.

Sucks to be proven right sometimes.

Stopping on the way home to get some errands run, I thought that some of the anger might have dissipated by the time I hit the couch to get some work done.  No such luck.

We remain a laughing stock.  ALL around the world now.

He is the CHIEF MAGISTRATE of Toronto.

I veryvery much believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinions- be they informed by experience or concerted investigation.

But…

For the first time ever I find that I really can’t see my way through to entertaining an exchange of ideas with someone who thinks that Rob Ford should still be- at the end of this day- the Mayor of Toronto.

Per usual, the comments I have seen lauding him for ‘standing his ground’ are doling out the same old sound bites that he, his inner circle and big bro keep dragging out over and over and over.  That many of these missives are ungrammatical and poorly spelled is also something that I’ve come to expect.

But I just can’t.

I cannot see how anyone can continue to defend this man and his character and policies.

I just can’t.

And by ending his ‘apology’ with some campaigning for re-election, he is demonstrating the reality that people are expected to have the attention spans of carp (a fish with a very poor memory span- although I’m really not sure how that was discovered…) and vote for him again.

Saddest part?  They will.  Likely in droves.

Because pandering and throwing barbeques seems to be a political tactic that encourages forgiveness for any-and-everything.

I was ragingly angry earlier.  Now I’m just sad.  For this City that I love.  For those who rely on City services and public transportation.  And for those who are relying on sustainable and responsible external investment in the City to produce employment opportunities and economic stability.

And that’s before even acknowledging the continuing demonstration that the public is CHOOSING to willfully support those who deserve no such thing.  Why?  Because buying into an easy line of chattered slogans that fits with their personal wish lists and specific way of looking at the world, rather than actually looking for the betterment, integrity and ethical grounding of the population as a whole, requires no examination or analysis of a sort that may tax one’s supposed intellect or take time away from the assorted infotainment, reality programming and shows about zombies that are seemingly much more important than looking for answers and potential responses to corruption and the seeking of power for its own sake.

It’s about more than Ford (and his brother- the things HE had to say about Chief Blair today completely beggar understanding).  It’s about systemic lapses in values like honesty and accountability.  The Senate scandal is another all-too-real-and-present example of this reality.

I’m done for the day.  The internet and the 24-hour news stations are getting shut down for the night.  I’m at such a loss that and so drained of understanding that I don’t even know how to begin to shape an adequate response to this latest demonstration of our willful idiocy.

Fair warning, though, to those I see over the next while.  If you’re part of that particular ‘Nation’, I’d suggest you’d better have something other than a platitude about saved taxes or a rant about the media invading his privacy or the citation of a biblical passage about stones being tossed if you want to engage with me in anything resembling a dialogue.  And if you didn’t vote at all 3 years ago?  Yeah, then I’m not really inclined to listen to anything you have to say on the subject right now.

It’s all too raw.

Some will likely suggest that I’m taking it all ‘too personally’.  I HAVE to take it personally.  We- human beings– are better than this.  We HAVE to- in spite of ‘reasons’ that are ‘justified’ by regressive ideologies or determined small-mindedness- elect leaders with a broader vision than that which serves only our immediate interests.  Expediency- political or personal- is beneath the best of us.

Lately I have thrown around a number of criticisms of political leaders and their inclinations to throw others in front of the bus to save their own skins or to distract us from one issue by focusing on another.

Although the ploy, in this case, didn’t work, as Harper changed his tack and cut all connections with his Senators… 

As I said yesterday, while our political leaders are presenting a picture of a tidy, economically prosperous house, the undersides of the country’s carpets are becoming irreparably dust-laden.

If we do have to put up with the continuation of the lack of ethics, extraordinary dishonesty and completely self-interested hubris we have seen evinced (seemingly daily) until the next election(s), I can only hope that the voting population will remember that Ford is a PROVEN LIAR when it comes time to go to the polls yet again.

Otherwise Alanis’ story of an inappropriate and dysfunctional relationship could well be Toronto’s continuing story.  I, for one, am sick of being in this co-dependent situation with a pathological, bullying and duplicitous individual who betrays no evidence of anything resembling impulse control.

Just saying.

‘Ooh, this could get messy
But you don’t seem to mind
Ooh, don’t go telling everybody
And overlook this supposed crime

We’ll fast forward to a few years later and
No one knows except the both of us
And I have honored your request for silence
And you’ve washed your hands clean of this

What part of our history’s reinvented and under rug swept?
What part of your memory is selective and tends to forget?’

Yes, I just played the ‘Alanis card’.  She’s CanCon, writes some great lyrics AND the video stars Chris Sarandon.  Let her words act as a cautionary tale.

Enough said?

I am feeling a bit like a neglectful parent right now.  Not only have I not had time to contribute anything of substance to this here blog of late, I totally spaced on the fact that I passed 5000 (!) views over the weekend.  While I realize that for some veteran bloggers out there my little 5000 hits may be nothing to write home about, I have to admit that I remain fairly staggered that so many kind peeps out there are willing to take the time to have a look at what I have to say.

This is a very nice thing.  And a very good feeling.

So I feel a fair bit of guilt for having left this here blog-baby to its own devices and for not acknowledging my appreciation to those of you who stop by for visits.  Please accept my belated gratitude and my apology for not addressing you sooner.

Time.  There doesn’t seem to be enough of it lately.  And we just lost an hour of it (sunlit evening time, at least) over the weekend.

It’s November.  The move is over (mostly- still some of things to get to storage and there are still a couple- okay, three– boxes that need unpacking at the new digs) and I’m settling into the new routine of the commute and all that jazz, so I should have a little free time, right?

Um.  Not so much.

The ongoing job search was on extended hiatus as I dealt with the imperatives of packing, lifting and unpacking boxes, so I’m trying to pick that back up in earnest (like the friend I wrote about here, I am finding myself increasingly demoralized by a toxic workplace and the ever-present feeling that I am spending most of my waking life contributing nothing of any value to the larger community- not good feelings to have) and get something happening that will allow me to better use my skills and depth of knowledge and interest in an appreciative setting.

A paycheque- however necessary and truly valued in these economic times- is just not enough for me.

And has anyone else been paying attention to what’s been going on here in Toronto?  Holy cats.  The Ford nonsense is out of freakin’ control.  I mean completely out of control.  I can’t even begin to explain how the recent events have messed with my psyche and increased the existential anxiety that has been building and building and building…

There IS, in fact, a video that is ‘consistent’ with the reports we all heard about (and that the late night talk show hosts had such fun with).  Yes.  That video that the mayor said didn’t exist.  Seems his good bud has been arrested for extortion for attempting to ‘recover’ the video from someone.  The Chief of Police of our fair town went so far as to call the situation ‘disappointing’ for the City and its citizens.

The hubris of this guy (the mayor, not Chief Blair) is incredible.  And the fact that he has a controlled media forum (in the form of his little radio show) every week in which to continue to spout sound bites and empty words makes me more than a little physically ill.  But what remains worse than all that is the fact that there are still SO MANY people out there that are leaping to his defence and maintaining that they will re-elect him because they believe the sound bites and the snappy one-liners one of his advisors has come up with him to repeat ad nauseum.  The lack of critical comprehension skills among the general population is dangerously out of control here in TO.

His ‘apology’ on said radio programme yesterday?  Even one of his ‘allies’ says it’s not enough.

I say, enough is enough.

 ‘Enough is enough I just can’t take it no more
Don’t take no time to explain,  I heard it all before’

(Toronto- cheesy-but-classic blast from our local past.  Gotta love a band that loves its hometown so much they take it as their name.  Wonder what Holly and the lads are thinking about our current sitch…)

And then there’s the Senate thing.  And the Prime Minister.  And his Office.  Dismissing the Senators in question would provide the Harper government with something of an easy out- since, given the complete lack of collective attention span this nation seems to have, dismissal might well mean that the systemic issues might not end up being fully addressed when the fall-guys are taken out and figuratively shot for their misconduct (don’t get me wrong- any misuse of public funds is a badbadbad thing in my view- I’m just sick of the tendency of this government to expedite dismissals and attempt to sweep everything under the national rug- it must be VERY dusty under there- by using backhanded deals and prorogation of Parliament and stuff like that).

It does seem as though the PM has forgotten that two of the Senators in question also happen to be journalists (and not of the type that just stand and shout the same question over and over and over again thinking that repetition and volume will eventually garner a response.  Honestly, what ARE they teaching in J-Schools these days?) and likely already have their respective responses and the actual circumstances of the entirety of the alleged malfeasance recorded for posterity and sold to the highest bidder, simply awaiting the best opportunity to present the public with their side of things.  And the third guy doesn’t strike me as all that inclined to go down as someone’s scapegoat, either.

I’m thinking that the PM and the PMO are unlikely to come out of such offerings looking all that shiny.  Especially since Harper seems to be getting pretty damn good at the under-the-bus-toss.

Wrongdoing should absolutely be punished.  But that punishment must include all those who may have some level of complicity- in the wrong itself or in the attempt to cover-up the wrong.  Political manoeuvering in an attempt to remove any residual scent of connection?  Not enough.

‘There’s nothing you can say, 
Nothing you can do, 
Nothing in between, 
You know the truth, 

It’s not enough…’

(Our Lady Peace- a good, solid Toronto band.  Hooray for CanCon!)

It’s also NaNoWriMo, and, wisely or not, I signed up for the first time.  As of last night I had 5375 words on the go.  Not sure how it will all come together- and whether any end result will be worth much of anything- but I’m thinking that the journey will be enough in itself- and it may provide the external discipline I seem to require to get back into the habit of writing some fiction.  The issue will be finding time to actually get some organization into the scattered regions of my brain that are set aside for creativity.  Of that, there is never enough.

I’m still debating whether or not to combine these two outlets of mine and publish excerpts from the fiction on this here non-fiction blog.  The melding of two worlds and all.  It’s all I can do to keep things properly sorted lately as it is.  So I’ll just play that by ear and take things as slowly and as calmly as I can, and try not to go too crazy (crazier?) with the dearth of time or with all the corruption and categorical deceit that seems to have become matter-of-course in all our various halls of power.

None of you would help me when I baked my bread
now all of you would help me eat it
 I can see that you are very well fed
this indicates that you don’t need it

 Enough said
Enough said
Stop and let me tell you what tomorrow holds for you
Stop and let me tell you ’bout a plan I have for you

 Take all the leaders from around the world
put them together in a great big ring
televise it as the lowest show on earth
and let them fight like hell to see who’s king

 Gather up the pieces when the fight is done
then you’ll find out living really can be fun

 The next thing I say to you will be true
the last thing I said was false
Remember to do nothing when you don’t know what to do

 You wanted a world you could figure out
but something happened while you were asleep
you wanted a good life you could brag about
too bad they took the parts you wanted to keep

 Enough said
Enough said
Stop and let me tell you what tomorrow holds for you
Stop and let me tell you ’bout a plan I have for you

 Take all the leaders from around the world
put them together in a great big ring
televise it as the lowest show on earth
and let them fight like hell to see who’s king

 Gather up the pieces when the fight is done
then you’ll find out living really can be fun

Thank you Devo.  Good, timeless and timely ideas.

For today, that’s all I’ve got.

Enough Said.

TILT

The News is bad.

I know our neighbours to the south are dealing with an inexplicable situation at their highest levels of government and I honestly don’t get how it can even be happening.  I don’t know enough about how the system works- certainly not enough to understand how federal employees can be thrown out of work when a minority of extremists shut down the business of government based on even more inexplicable attitudes about points of policy that the electorate seems to favour- and, to be honest, I have neither the time nor the heart to research the situation in any depth right now.

I have read various takes on the insanity by some of my fellow bloggers- who, as Americans, know way more about it all than I would ever claim.  The most I can take personal issue with is SNL’s (hilarious as always) Weekend Update examination of the sitch- which blamed us here in the Great White North for the whole thing.  While you all were distracted by Iran and North Korea, a Canadian shut down the US government.

Please.  We don’t lay any claim to that Senator Cruz guy.  Even if we wanted to, you’d have to convince me that the majority political/ideological ideals out of Calgary are representative of Canadian political sensibilities in the rest of the country as a whole.  They certainly aren’t representative of mine.  That Harper guy spent his adult years there (I don’t count his early childhood in Toronto.  Would rather forget we hail from the same neighbourhood, actually) and represents the city in Parliament.  Their current mayor (who is AWESOME) notwithstanding, Albertan politics are faaaaaar more right-leaning than I am remotely comfortable with.

Cruz seems fairly intent on playing down any Canadian-ness anyway.  He wants to be President, so the ‘natural born citizen’ thing necessitates distancing himself from us.  Which, given his 21+hour performance in the Senate a few weeks back, is okay with me (and most of the people I know here at home).

We have enough insane politicians of our own.

More than enough.

The local 6 o’clock news started off by telling us the actual dollar figure that the taxpayers of Ontario are paying as a result of the Liberal government’s decision to cancel the contracts for a couple of gas plants in advance of the last provincial election- in a bid to guarantee two (yes TWO) seats.  1.1 billion (yes BILLION) dollars.  And if they’d just held off and let the proposal expire, it would have cost NOthing.

All in the name of political expediency.

Story number two?  City council back to the fighting board regarding the idiocy about the Scarborough subway– and how to pay for it.  I especially love how the Brothers Ford attacked Paul Ainslie- who actually represents Scarborough- for suggesting that a subway isn’t the most cost-effective solution to the need for public transit in the city’s east end.  He’s FROM Scarborough.  What could he possibly know about his constituency?  The Bros from the ‘Coke (on the opposite suburban side of town), as usual, know best.

Number three?  One of those same Senators who have been all over the news lately for wrongly claimed expenses?  He apparently paid a friend $65,000 (of taxpayers’ money) to do, well, nothing.

I guess I am either completely naive and clueless- or maybe just not quite cynical enough- but I honestly was of the opinion that people went into public service- as bureaucrats, policy makers and, most certainly, elected officials- in order to benefit society with the skills and perspectives they have to offer the general population.

Needs of the many over the greed and expediency of the few, as it were.

Not feeling like there is anything like truth in that particular belief these days.

Those who are drawn to public service lately seem to be attracted solely by the benefits and stability of government jobs- and those who run for office cannot possibly be considered altruistic in their motivations or actions anymore.  Maybe they never could.  I’d like to think that we have had public leaders who actually care about the public.  But whether or not history can back me up on that, the currently reality says it is now otherwise.

Big time.

Don Quixote, that pivotal, incredible staple of the Western Canon, tells the story of the idealistic and noble-of-spirit Man of La Mancha, who set out to perform acts of chivalry- those tenets of knighthood that focused on gallantry and service to others- in the face of constant deception and humiliating criticism.

Under the influence of Medieval tales about chivalry- and its lost values- Alonso Quijano remakes himself as Don Quixote and sets out to return the ideals he admires to a world that has ceased to value such things.

Miguel de Cervantes’ novel is so rich with characters and wonder and meaning that interpretations of his masterpiece are diverse and often disparate.

To me, the character of Don Quixote demonstrates- repeatedly- that individuals can be right while the larger society is wrong.  Unfortunately, like Don Quixote, such individuals are all too often viewed as ineffectual- if not completely crazy.  Ultimately his idealism is defeated by mundane realities- and by the grasping greed of those around him.  Even his patient squire, Sancho, tricks Don Quixote and earns himself a governorship (albeit a false one), in Part 2.

Don Quixote serves as social commentary and a satirical view of orthodoxy, nationalism and the pitfalls of slavish conformity to ideas of ‘truth’.  The putative knight sees his idealism dashed and finally- upon his deathbed and return to ‘sanity’- he renounces his attempts to restore the moral system of chivalry and apologizes for the trouble he caused.

This recanting is the real tragedy of Don Quixote.

Among other things, the chivalric code stated that its followers must protect those who cannot protect themselves- including children, widows and the elderly.  Chivalrous knights were all about honour- and respecting and protecting the honour of women.  They persevered and saw all tasks through to their conclusion.  And they despised pecuniary rewards.

Neither Don Quixote nor the knights he emulated were in it for the power or the money.  They did these things because they believed that they were the right things to do.  Yet such examples became ideals to be mocked in the face of the common reality.

To be quixotic is to be ‘overly’ ideal- that is, to subscribe to lofty or romantic ideas without regard to practicality.  To be quixotic is to be naive or impulsive.  I think that Don Quixote has gotten an historical bad rap.

In the context of the novel, those who tilt at windmills are perceived to be vainly fighting against an imagined enemy based on misinterpreted idealistic justifications.  But it can also be used to describe engagement in a fight in which the imbalance is pronounced- a lone man on a horse with a jousting lance against the power of the wind that causes the blades to continue turning.  Even if he is the underdog, the idealist sees the battle as one that must be met.

The Wikipedia notes that while playing pinball, ‘skillful players can influence the movement of the ball by nudging or bumping the pinball machine, a technique known as “nudging.” There are tilt mechanisms which guard against excessive manipulation of this sort… When one of these sensors is activated, the game registers a “tilt” and locks out, disabling solenoids for the flippers and other playfield systems so that the ball can do nothing other than roll down the playfield to the drain. A tilt will usually result in the loss of bonus points earned by the player during that ball. Older games would immediately end the ball in play on a tilt. Modern games give tilt warnings before sacrificing the ball in play.’

I don’t think that the adversaries are imagined.  I think our elected leaders have lost all sense of the honour that must, of necessity and design, come with public service.  I might be an idealist, but I think that my expectations of those who we choose to be put in charge are justified and in no way unreasonable.

I also think that those sensors that alert us to excessive manipulation are firing in a big way.  We have hit the tilt warning and it’s past time to stabilize the pinball machine of governance.  Our leaders must be held accountable and lose all those bonus points that were not earned through real skill or the honourable playing of the game.

Forty winks in the lobby, make mine a G&T
Then to our favorite hobby, searching for an enemy
Here in our paper houses, stretching for miles and miles
Old men in stripy trousers, rule the world with plastic smiles

Good or bad, like it or not
It’s the only one we’ve got

I won’t let the sun go down on me
I won’t let the sun go down
I won’t let the sun go down on me
I won’t let the sun go down

Mother nature, isn’t in it, three hundred million years
Goodbye in just a minute, gone forever, no more tears
Pinball man, power glutton, vacuum inside his head
Forefinger on the button, is he blue or is he red?


Nik Kershaw’s 1983 song was written in the context of the Cold War, the threat of nuclear annihilation, and politicians and politics in the US and USSR.  More than a little depressing that the themes are still applicable, 30 years later.

Break your silence if you would
Before the sun goes down for good

Think I’ll go fight me some windmills…